Tiepolo picture deemed too racy to hang is found

Fri Nov 28, 2008 4:00am EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A painting by 18th century Italian master Giambattista Tiepolo left in the attic of a French chateau because its semi-naked subject was considered too risque has been re-discovered.

"Portrait of a Lady as Flora," believed to be one of a series of paintings commissioned by Empress Elizabeth of Russia, will be offered for auction by Christie's at its important old master and British pictures sale in London on December 2.

The painting has remained untouched in the same private collection for more than 200 years, and is expected to fetch 700-900,000 pounds ($1.1-1.4 million).

"Private collectors are attracted to rare, rediscovered paintings offered in untouched condition," said Richard Knight, international director of Christie's old master department.

He pointed to two recent country house discoveries of old master paintings that generated strong interest from bidders, including Jean-Antoine Watteau's "La Surprise" which realized 12.4 million pounds in July.

In "Flora," thought to date from around 1760 or 1761, a young woman is partly covered with drapery, her left breast exposed and her left arm holding a bunch of flowers against her body.

It is uncertain whether the series ever reached Empress Elizabeth. She died in 1762, and Tiepolo moved to Madrid in the same year.

Christie's would not specify in which French chateau the painting was discovered. The work will be on show at Christie's from November 29 to December 2.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)